Countdown to Edo Governorship Poll: Who Wins…And Who Loses?

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In about three weeks, the residents in Edo State will go to the polls to elect a new governor who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years. The Independent National Electoral Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the September 10 governorship election in February. INEC said 18 political parties had been cleared to contest in the election.

But from all indications, only two political parties are really in the race to win. They are the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. Mr. Godwin Obaseki is the APC candidate, while Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the candidate of PDP.

Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki was born in Benin City to the famous Obaseki family. He had his early education at St. Matthew’s Anglican Primary School, Benin City, from where he proceeded to Eghosa Anglican Grammar School, Benin City, for his secondary school education. He attended the University of Ibadan where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Classics.

Obaseki attended the Columbia University and Pace University in New York and has an MBA in Finance and International Business. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Stock Brokers, Nigeria, and an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, Chief Executive Programme. He was nominated a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2001.

Obaseki began his career over 30 years ago and he has a proven track record in Investment Banking, Asset Management, Securities Trading and the Public Sector both internationally and in Nigeria. He started out in 1983 with Capital Trust Brokers Limited, Lagos, as a stockbroker where he excelled and subsequently worked with International Merchant Bank (an affiliate of First Chicago Bank). In 1988 he joined AVC Funds Limited, Lagos, where he served as a Project Manager and led the core team that set up two of the new generation banks, which eventually reshaped the face of the banking industry in Nigeria. Between 1993 and 1995, he worked in New York as a principal of Equatorial Finance Co, a financial advisory firm with a focus on Africa, providing Structured Trade Finance for Africa related transactions through credit, financial advisory and risk insurance.

Obaseki founded Afrinvest West Africa Limited (formerly Securities Transactions & Trust Company Limited (SecTrust)) in 1995 as the pioneer managing director. The firm has since grown to become a leading investment banking and investment management firm in Nigeria. In 1995 SecTrust was appointed the correspondent stockbroker for Nigeria by the International Finance Corporation. In 1996, SecTrust established the first derivative product, the Nigerian International Debt Fund on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which allowed Nigerians to invest local savings in US Dollar instrument. The fund has outperformed projections on returns.

SecTrust pioneered and was local adviser on the first global offering by a Nigerian bank through the issuance of Global Depositary Shares to raise UD$50 million from the international capital market. Afrinvest has acted as advisers on some of the largest and most significant transactions in the Nigerian capital market since 2005.

Afrinvest is one of the most trusted advisory firms in the domestic corporate finance market, pioneering major innovations and providing leadership in the Nigerian securities market. The firm has advised on numerous landmark transactions, including the first Eurobond Issue by a Sub-Saharan Africa corporate (outside South Africa); the first ever simultaneous merger and tender offer transaction in Sub-Saharan Africa and the largest ever listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Afrinvest has been ranked as a major investment research firm, which is playing instrumental roles in the introduction of new financing products, such as Eurobonds and Global Depository Receipts to Nigerian companies.

Obaseki is presently the chairman of the Board of Directors of the firm, which won the Best Asset Management Firm in Nigeria (2014) Award, organised by the Wealth & Finance International Magazine Finance Awards.
Before his nomination as the candidate of APC, Obaseki served as chairman of the Edo State Government’s Economic and Strategy Team, a position he has held since March 17, 2009 pro bono.

Obaseki’s key achievements as chairman of the economic team of Edo State Government include: documentation of state economic development framework through sectors’ strategic planning which is reviewed and updated on an on-going basis; introduction and enculturation of retreats as a platform to ensure all parties’ engagement not only in planning and executing state development initiatives but also in monitoring and evaluation of outcomes; N25 billion infrastructure development bond from the Nigerian capital market in 2010; $225 million concessionary rates development loan from the World Bank with the first tranche of $75 million already accessed; successful hosting of sector-based Economic Summits and Policy Dialogue Series, including the Power Round Table in 2010, 2011 Education Round Table and 2012 Agribusiness Round Table.

These summits have translated into immeasurable outcomes, including Azura-Edo IPP project with over $1 billion in FDI currently under development in Ihovbor, Uhunwode Local Government Area.
They have also brought about education reforms, which have translated to significant improvement in educational infrastructure and student performance in WAEC and other exams.

Following the 2012 Agribusiness Summit, the state attracted investment in the rubber sub-sector for the development of the single largest rubber plantation project in Nigeria in Sokponba in Orhiomwon Local Government Area under a privately developed and financed initiative;
A framework for local economic empowerment through out-growers schemes is being finalised to attract funding into the development of key crops for which Edo State has natural endowment, including oil palm, rubber, cassava, cocoa, rice and other grains.

Obaseki has served on the Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigerian Pension System. He also served on the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission Committee on the Reactivation of the Nigerian Bond Market and the review f the Investment and Securities Act. He served as a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange Council between 2006 and 2009. He also serves on the board of some companies, such as Dorman Long Engineering Limited, Pillar Oil Limited, Seric Impianti International Limited.

Obaseki was the founding secretary of the New York-based US Africa Chamber of Commerce in 1992, which promoted US organisations doing business in Africa. He was a director in Junior Achievement of Nigeria – the local affiliate of the worldwide not-for-profit organisation which trains students to appreciate market economy values.
He also participates actively and serves as trustee in the Dr. Jackson Owen Obaseki Foundation, a family owned NGO, which is involved in providing free educational and health services to the less privileged.

Strength
Obaseki commands the full backing of APC members. After the primaries was won and lost there was apprehension that those who lost might either defect to PDP or join other political parties to actualise their governorship ambitions. But that did not happen, as all the aspirants have united strongly to back Obaseki’s candidacy. This was made possible by the reconciliatory moves he and the governor made to appease aggrieved members.

The APC candidate has a manifesto that many see as achievable through his agricultural policy and industrialisation. These would create jobs through investors that will take advantage of the infrastructural development to build industries that can give the youths jobs to better their lives. He also has a well-defined programme for the women through micro-credit schemes to enable them expand their trade and businesses.

Another advantage Obaseki has is being the candidate of the party in power at the federal level. Many would want to vote to be able to enjoy benefits that may accrue from that level of government. In other words, the certainty of party popularity at the federal level will work in his favour.

Obaseki also enjoys tremendous geopolitical advantage. Edo State seats on a tripod. Edo South senatorial district has 58 per cent of the voting population; Edo Central has 16 per cent, and Edo North has 26 per cent of voters in the state. Incidentally, the zone where PDP commands a seemingly huge popularity is the Central zone, where has the likes of Chief Anthony Anenih, Chief Tom Ikimi, Mike Onolemenme, Senator Clifford Odia, Senator Odion Igneous, and others with the exclusion of former governor and senator, Prof. Osunbor.

The people of Edo North, with 26 per cent of voters, look set to cast their votes almost 100 per cent for Obaseki because of the Oshiomhole factor and the area where his deputy hails from. Recently, people from the zone through their traditional rulers pledged their support for Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shaibu.

The Edo North traditional rulers are not alone; the South senatorial traditional rulers have also pledged their support for the APC candidate. They based their support on the development strides of the Oshiomhole administration. They said Oshiomhole had performed exceedingly well compared to others in the last 16 years of democracy and spoke of the need to support Obaseki, who is also part of the Oshimhole success story, rather that voting for someone who was party of the dark days of development in the state.

Even traditional rulers from the Central have at various times pledged their support for Obaseki.
The politics of the tripod is another strong point in favour of the APC flag bearer. At first, there was apprehension that the Central having lost the leadership position due to the impeachment of Victor Edoror, will not cast their votes for APC. But this was quickly addressed, as the speaker from Edo South, who emerged after Edoror’s ouster, was asked to step down for another lawmaker from the Central district in the person of Justine Okonobor (Igueben constituency).
Edo State has 18 local government areas with 24 seats in the House of Assembly. Of this number, PDP has only three constituency seats, while APC has 21 seats, a situation that will make it extremely difficult for the table to turn in favour of PDP.

Weakness:
Despite the intimidating profile of Obaseki, many see him as a stooge of the outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He is seen as largely unpopular without the family name.
Obaseki is also seen as a shrewd tax collector who would not only continue the tax policy of Oshiomhole, but in fact take it to a harsher dimension, if elected.
The present economic situation in the country is not helping matters for the APC candidate because one of the campaign slogans of the PDP is that the high cost of living Nigerians are witnessing in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will be worse in Edo State if APC is allowed to continue as a party in government.

Ize-Iyamu
Ize-Iyamu is a formidable politician. He is a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God and a former official of the PDP government in the state, where he served as Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo State Government during the administration of Chief Lucky Igbinedion, between 1999 and 2007. Before his nomination as candidate of PDP, he was a member of the All Progressives Congress and the National Vice Chairman, South-south zone, of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.

Ize-Iyamu served as director-general of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation. He was also the coordinator of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation.
Ize-Iyamu was born in Benin City on June 21, 1962 to Chief Robert Osayande Ize-Iyamu and Mrs. Magdalene Naghado Ize- Iyamu (nee Obasohan), both of blessed memory. His father was a revered high chief of the Oba of Benin, ranking second in command until his demise as the Esogban of Benin. His mother was a trained teacher who later distinguished herself as a successful trader.

Ize-Iyamu is a descendant of an illustrious family deeply rooted in nobility and with an outstanding record of service to the community and society. His forefather, Chief Odia, was the Iyase’N’ohenmwen (Prime Minister) of Benin in the reign of Oba Osemwende (1816 – 1848 A.D). Ize-Iyamu’s maternal heritage is also of noble repute. His maternal grandfather was the well-known Obasohan of Akpakpava.

Strength
Ize-Iyamu’s strength in the forthcoming election rests mainly on his political sagacity. He was a member of the party he is contesting against. Another advantage Ize-Iyamu seems to have is the economic state of the country, which has become a kind of albatross for the ruling APC. Even when ordinarily, the comatose state of the economy can be largely blamed on the actions and inaction of the past PDP federal government, the PDP in the state is utilising that campaign weapon against the APC by telling the electorate that if they vote APC, the price of commodities will rise further and hardship will increase.
The tax policy of the present government of Oshiomhole, which is biting hard on the people, is another sore point for APC, which PDP is harvesting strongly.

The pension arrears owed pensioners and some local governments who owe their workers if not quickly countered by the APC may work against the party. Even when it is a known fact that pensioner who are captured in the pension scheme receive their pensions alongside workers of the state, and local government workers that have started receiving some of the backlog of salaries owed them, the PDP has used the initial problem to its advantage.

Weakness
In spite of the seeming advantages, the average Edo voter sees Ize-Iyamu as a continuation of the Igbinedion hegemony that spent eight years with nothing to write home about in terms of development. To make it worse for him, he occupied two strategic positions, as Chief of Staff, and Secretary to the State Government. Besides, he was alleged to have been the one that signed most of the fictitious multi-billion naira contracts in that administration, which were never executed.

Another thing working against Ize-Iyamu is the factionalisation of PDP at the national level, which has rub off on the party in the state. Although INEC has recognised him as the candidate of the party, others who contested with him in the primaries have largely deserted him. First to leave was Osaro Onaiwu, followed by Solomon Edebiri and the factional PDP candidate from the Ali Modu Sheriff camp, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen.

Many notable PDP politicians from his zone and beyond have deserted him. His supporters are mainly from Edo Central district that may not be able to win the election for him because of population disadvantage.

In Edo South, for instance, personalities like two-time governor of the state, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, former deputy governor under Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Lucky Imasuen, and a host of others are no longer in PDP. Even those who are there are no longer on the same page with Ize-Iyamu.